Is There a Macular Degeneration Cure?


What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a dreaded eye health diagnosis. A disease that causes loss of sight in the center of the visual field, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans aged 60 and older. All told, it is estimated that macular degeneration affects 8.5 million Americans aged 40 and older.

The macula is located in the center of the eye’s retina, the part of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain to create a visual image. The macula is responsible for seeing objects in the central visual field clearly, and is necessary for common tasks like reading, driving, watching TV, playing sports and recognizing faces.

3 dimensional image of macula in the eye

In macular degeneration, the macula is slowly destroyed, often due to free radical damage or exposure to dangerous short-wave light frequencies from the sun. As macular degeneration progresses, the center of the visual field first becomes blurry, then obscured, and finally resolves into a dark, opaque blur.

Risk factors
Older people are at higher risk for macular degeneration, which is why the condition is also often called age-related macular degeneration (or AMD). People in their 40s and 50s have about 2% risk of getting macular degeneration, but this risk increases to nearly 30% in those over age 75.

Besides age, risk factors for macular degeneration include smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and a family history. Women are at higher risk of the condition than men, and people who are Caucasian are more likely to have macular degeneration than African Americans.

Macular degeneration affects more than the eyes
Researchers have found that psychological distress in people with macular degeneration is very high; similar to distress experienced by other chronic illness populations. About 44% of those with macular degeneration also have symptoms of depression. Research further shows the greater the vision loss, the higher the risk of struggling with depression.

Is there a cure?
There is no cure for macular degeneration. As with so many other chronic illnesses, prevention is the best strategy. If macular degeneration has already manifested, the next best strategy involves taking steps to slow its progression. Thankfully, there are many lifestyle changes we can make to prevent macular degeneration while promoting overall eye health: